Best 88 Key MIDI Controllers

From bedroom musicians to high-end producers, everyone needs equipment that makes making music extra enjoyable.

A lot of musicians may opt for the 49 or 61 key keyboards these days, due to copious amounts of high tech programming and add-on’s, like amps, keyboards pedals, and lights. Sometimes you only need a 49 or 61 key to do all the things you have to do. 

But, nothing quite beats the range and composition capabilities of a good 88 key MIDI keyboard controller.

When you’re looking into investing in an 88 key MIDI controller, there are many things you will need to consider and you may not know which, of the many on the market, is best for you. 

To help you find your perfect piece of music production equipment, we are here to help. Having made up a list that will help you decide, which one is the right one, for you.

In A-Major rush?

Have a key emergency? In treble? No worries. We have got you.

If you need to get something quickly, something that is quality, hardy with all the best features that will benefit you. Something that meets all your musical needs then we have the product for you right here. 

If you need to quickly invest in a new 88 key MIDI controller, sit back, relax and take a look at the Roland A MKII 88 key.

Built with premium materials it is dependable and will give you years of high-quality performance. It has plenty of control features to make your life ever so much easier, including connectivity to an app that is compatible with both Ios and windows. 

Here are some key pointers to consider this fantastic MIDI controller:

  • Built with premium materials for a long life.
  • 8 RGB-lit knobs, 9 RGB-lit pads, and 3 pedal inputs. 
  • Is MIDI 2.0 ready.
  • 3 customizable zones with onboard arpeggiator and chord memory.
  •  Multipurpose pads that trigger commands and events to give a real-time performance.

Top 5 Best Surf Helmets

OUR TOP PICK

Roland A-88 MKII 88-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Our top rated MIDI Controller is the Roland A MKII 88 Key, this controller has great reviews all over the internet, with good reason.

This controller is built to last with premium materials that will give you years of quality performance. It also has 8 RGB-lit assignable knobs as well as 8 RGB-lit pads and 3 pedal inputs. 

It also has 3 customizable zones with an onboard arpeggiator and chord memory. It is thin and shallow in depth so it nicely fits into the modern studio space.

 It has wonderful features such as a control application, for deep customization and instant recall. 

With USB connectivity it will connect with both IOS and windows and is MIDI 2.0 ready. Still not convinced it’s worth being our top pick?

Well, with its hammer-action keyboard it plays like an instrument, thanks to the keyboard feel the wood construction creates a solid play you feel right under your fingers. 

It also has deep expression and complete creative control with multipurpose pads that trigger commands and events that give energizing real-time performance.

It even has custom control with the use of the control app, available with Mac IOS and window, controlling soft synths or external hardware has never been so easy. 

Pros

  • Great for professionals or beginners.
  • App usage makes controlling the MIDI controller even easier.
  • Fits perfectly in studio environments. 
  • Plays like an instrument.

Cons

  • Quite wide at 55.9 inches. 

EDITORS CHOICE

M-Audio Keystation 88 II - 88 Key USB/MIDI Keyboard Controller with Velocity-Sensitive Semi-Weighted Keys Including Production Software for Mac & PC

This MIDI controller is great for those on a budget and is lightweight and ultra-portable. With velocity-sensitive keys, it has a natural piano feel.

It is USB powered and gives a seamless USB to MIDI connection for control of virtual instruments, perfect for controlling recording software, and more. 

It has a fantastic set of octave up and down buttons to increase to the fullest melodic range. As well as onboard pitch bend and modulation wheels to give the most immersive and expressive performances. 

Want more? It also has conveniently located transport and directional buttons to make an easy-to-use interface for DAW and virtual instrument control. What more could you want? 

Well, if you need just a bit more to be truly amazed by this controller, it also has a pro-production software package for Mac and PC with a 2GB, 500+ sound library of in-demand sound content from Touch Loops, with installment requirements so low, it is unbelievable, you only need an up-to-date software and 2GB of free ram! 

Pros

  • Lightweight. 
  • Portable.
  • Natural piano feel.
  • USB-MIDI connection for virtual instruments.

Cons

  • One customer reported that the sensitivity between white keys to sharps and flats was slightly different. 

BEST VALUE

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 Keyboard

This controller could easily have been our best pick because its features are fantastic!

It is a smart keyboard controller for all virtual instruments and effects with pro-grade fatar keybeds with aftertouch, fully-weighted, and hammer action keys. 

It also has pre-mapped control of Komplete instruments and effects with hundreds of Native Kontrol standard plug-is from the leading manufacturers. It also includes the required PSU and has a ¼ inch TRS connection for expression and sustain pedals. 

Alongside these are 2 high-resolution color screens and a light guide for at-a-glance feedback. It also has fantastic pitch and mod control with rubber wheels as well as DAW transport control.

Not to mention the 8 touch-sensitive knobs for precision tweaking and a light guide to see sounds, key zones, switches, scales, and more at just a glance, with the RGB lights about each key! 

What an amazing set of features! Everything you need to know while working with this controller is right in your eye-line. 

With the feature of the ultra-sensitive, responsive touch strip, it provides an alternative to the plug-in with would express pedal.

Pros

  • Realistic feel.
  • Lighting zones to help as you play. 
  • Many integration options and features. 
  • Superior control.

Cons

  • Requires an additional power source. 

RUNNER UP

Nektar, 88-Key (IMPACT LX88+)

Designed for keyboard players who are looking for that extra reach, our fourth pick is the Nektar Impact 88+.

With an 88-note, velocity-sensitive, weighted keyboard it gives you everything you’ll need from a MIDI keyboard controller. 

It has 8 hyper-sensitive, backlit pads and is compatible with Mac, PC, and IOS. Software instruments are automatically mapped to the controls, and it includes a BigWig 8 track DAW.

It can also be split into 3 zones, which is a dream come true for any composer who has to deal with multiple instruments at once. 

Some of its features include; a pitch bend and mod wheels, a split, layer, and transpose buttons.

With MIDI out and USB class components, as well as Nektar DAW integration. All of the hard work is done with this controller, so you can focus on being creative. 

Its Nektar integration supports many of the most popular DAW’s including; LogicProX, Cubase, Garageband, and more.

It has flexible controls with mixer controls and instrument control, having a constituent output it is easy to navigate. 

Pros

  • Affordable for the average musician.
  • Plenty of features that assist in control.
  • Easy to navigate.
  • DAW compatible.

Cons

  • Heavy in comparison to some of its competitors. 

RUNNER UP

M-Audio Hammer 88 | Premium 88-Key Hammer-Action USB/MIDI Keyboard Controller Including A Studio Grade Software Suite

Finally, we have the M-Audio Hammer 88 Key, this controller is a premium piece of equipment and is fantastic for both professional and skilled players, or even the student that wants a grand piano feel to match with their virtual instruments and modules. 

It has 88 fully-weighted keys with hammer action, which are velocity sensitive, so, they deliver a natural piano feel, sure to get every subtle nuance for your performance.

It has a driverless class compliant and it’s USB powered specifications provide seamless USB MIDI connection to both play virtual instruments and control your recording software. 

The pitch bend, modulation, volume, and octave controls are conveniently placed for immersive and expressive work. It has expanded control options for inputs as well, for options such as sustain, expression, and even soft pedals. 

WHats even better about this controller is that it also provides a free 3-month subscription to ‘Skoove’ piano for beginners and advanced players alike.

Also providing included software and in-demand sound from Touch-Loops. It gives a clean aesthetic for those musicians who are more concerned with creativity and accuracy than with time-consuming editing and tweaking. 

Pros

  • Great for students. 
  • Accompanied learning software. 
  • Accuracy Focused.
  • Can split into multiple zones for different instruments.

Cons

  • One consumer complaint that the USB port is sensitive.

Buyers Guide

So, now you’ve seen the tip-top 88 key MIDI controllers you’ve probably picked out your favorites, right?

But, you have to remember to also consider many other things before you buy, to really know which one is best for you.

Let’s have a look at what to consider.

Weighted Keys

Pretty much all of the 88 Keyed Controllers on the market will have full-sized keys, but not all have hammer-action, which will make them feel like an acoustic piano.

It depends on what you are used to, if you don’t mind semi-weighted keys then you don’t need to think about hammer-action or full-weighted realistic touch.

But, if you are looking for something that feels like a real piano, you want to go for something more like the Roland MKII which has a real feel, hammer action. 

Transport Controls 

Using a MIDI Controller you will probably have to get used to controlling DAW’s frequently.

It will help you out to get an 88-Key MIDI controller with transport controls, to prevent too much hassle of using a trackball or mouse when you want to play, stop or record on the DAW.

This will have all the hard work already done for you so you can focus on creating wonderful sounds. 

Number of Zones

Zones is another important thing you want to consider, the more you have, the more you can play.

Zones help your creativity as it gives you an opportunity to split them into different MIDI channels.

You could even split the keyboard so your left-hand plays a different synth to your right, enabling you to peak your creativity and show off your skills even more. 

Aftertouch

Aftertouch is usually found on the most high-end products.

It can really influence how you create your sounds, as it allows you to automatically send MIDI data as soon as a key is pressed (cool right?) It can control everything from vibrato to volume and everything in-between.

It gives you that extra bit of creative edge in your playing that makes you and your work stand out.

Features like this are found on most high-end products and if this is something you are looking for then a product like the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 is the best one for you.

Auto-Mapping 

Wait! Before you buy, have a read here. This is very important for MIDI controllers, as they need to connect to a device.

You will want to control DAW’s, software, plug-ins, and more. You are going to need to focus on your specification, double-check to see if your keyboard has auto-mapping for whatever software application you use for your productions. 

If it doesn’t have this, you will need to set it manually, which sounds so time-consuming, right? A MIDI keyboard controller such as the Nektar Impact LX 88+ has auto-mapping and integrates to many softwares such as LogicProX or Garageband.

Make sure to check the 88-key MIDI controller you are looking at has automapping for the software you use. 

Pitch and modulation wheels

Since you’re here, have a think about what you will be using your MIDI controller for, do you want to create cool and fun sounds? Yes? Then you are going to want one with pitch and modulation wheels. 

A pitch wheel will bend your notes and lead to some very cool effects, the modulation wheel will add vibrato, think of that cool song you like with the guitar effect that always adds that rock-n-roll effect.

The Nektar Impact LK 88+ and the M-Audio Keystation both have this super cool feature.  

Connectivity 

If you are using the controller in combination with your Mac or PC then you will be able to use the MIDI over USB, in this instance, you will want to control your equipment directly with your computer.

But ideally, you want to make sure that it has a MIDI port, many will also have MIDI in and out ports which will additionally let you incorporate additional MIDI instruments and devices. 

If you want to go all-out then you want to keep your eye out for connectors for foot pedals, especially if you are likely to use sustain or softener pedals. Some keyboards will have additional foot pedal inputs.

One of these would be our top pick, the Roland MKII, which has 3 additional pedal inputs available, if you are likely to use foot pedals, this one is likely the best choice for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

“Which is the best MIDI controller for beginners?” 

There are many good ones to choose from and it’s worth taking the time to browse.

Nektar is rated as one of the best MIDI controllers for beginners, this is down to its fantastic ease, navigating the system is a breeze and is designed for keyboard players who want to go a bit further. 

We would also recommend the M-Audio Hammer 88 Key due to its add-on of free lessons and additional software that helps you learn.

“Are MIDI controllers worth it?” 

In our opinion, yes, they are. If you are interested in music production, MIDI controllers help you use your production software to it’s fullest potential, helping you create your music with art and expression that pushes you to greater heihts. 

“Why are MIDI keyboards so expensive?”

Like anything, what you pay for is what you get. A cheaper pair of shoes will not last you as long as a more expensive pair.

It is similar to MIDI keyboards, the main thing that adds price is the velocity-sensitive keys, this needs to be consistent through all the keys. 

Generally, the more you pay for the MIDI keyboard, the more you will get out of it and the better functionality it will have.

Strictly speaking, you get more bang for your buck using a MIDI keyboard controller as you get more use out of your programs and a cleaner and organized approach.

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